Do STEM researchers need a career coach?

Many postdoctoral researchers and Ph.D. students questioned me during our discussions why they would need a career coach or a career accelerator. In their opinion, there many persons and online resources one can rely on for addressing such concerns.

First and foremost is the Ph.D. advisor or supervisor or Principal Investigator (PI). They can definitely mentor you to follow the steps they followed to reach their position. However, they might not be aware of the many different paths one can follow outside academia. Even when they are, they might not have the time needed to help you prepare and move there.

There are some (still few) institutions that operate career offices for postdoctoral researchers, like Stanford (USA), Cambridge (UK), and Ghent (Belgium). But what are your options if your institution has not established such an office yet? Or if it is understaffed and their capacity for personalized support for each researcher is limited?

You can also rely to fellow researchers, senior or peers, for advice and a listening ear. This is an excellent source of support, especially for “internal affairs“. However, these people might have a conflicting agenda (e.g., who reaches faster to tenure or how many apply for an under-the-radar advertised post for a profile similar to all lab members?). Also, they might have a very restricted viewpoint on what is available for you out there and is a good fit for you.

Consulting friends and family, including your significant other is another option. These people definitely care about you. They are able to support you, at least up to a point. Indeed, everyone follows their own career and have their own daily and long-term struggles. One big challenge is time availability. Can they be there for you when you need them and for as long as you need them in? This is not always feasible. And there is one more thing. People that are so close to you are probably not completely neutral, as you would expect. They can be rather biased on what is good for you and for them. Which is normal, isn’t it?

Last but not least, yourself. There are endless online resources and books you can consult by your own to improve and accelerate your career. If you can devote the time needed to study and consult all these, it is great, go for it! My blog is on these resources. Allow me to point just a few more of all available that I recommend:

However, you might prefer to invest your time to deepen the expertise in your research field. In this case, you can rely on the professional services of a career accelerator to help you reach your defined career goals faster. There are many different offerings you can benefit from: one-to-one sessions, structured group programs, coaching, mentoring, advising, tutorials on job seeking, resume and CV editing (you do know the difference of these two, don’t you?), maintaining a LinkedIn profile and social media presence, networking in conferences and other events, grant reviewing before submission, scientific paper proofreading, research project management, outreach and awareness activities, and personal skills development to name but a few.

I believe that one can collect all the necessary knowledge to advance their career. In the busy times we live, a career accelerator can help you switch to the fast lane. It is your decision.